The Great Transition

Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)

an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, March 14–July 8, 2012
Catalog of the exhibition edited by Helen C. Evans, with Brandie Ratliff
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 332 pp., $65.00; $45.00 (paper) (distributed by Yale University Press)
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brown_1-051012.jpg
Vladimir Trebenin/State Hermitage Museum
A silver plate from Constantinople depicting two companions of Dionysos, Silenus and a Maenad, 613–630. Images from classical mythology persisted in Byzantine art well into the Christian era, and in Middle Eastern art long after the Islamic conquest.

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In the century between 630 and 730 a considerable portion of the Old World took on its modern face. Through a series of astonishing campaigns, Arab Muslim armies created a single empire that, for a time, would reach from southern Spain to northern India and the western borders of China. From the “big bang” of these conquests a new galaxy emerged. From then onward, a closely interconnected chain of Muslim regions (one part of which, from modern Morocco to the borders of Iran, came to speak Arabic) stretched across Africa and Eurasia, joining the Atlantic to western China. A new civilization came into being, one that has lasted, with many permutations, into our own days. In the words of Finbarr Flood, a major contributor…



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